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The Economy for the common good (ECG), first introduced by Christian Felber, is a movement involving people, companies and organizations from around the world that promotes a sustainable economic system which places people and planet before profits. During the summer school of alternative economics and monetary systems we had great pleasure to have an expert talk with Christian Felber as the initiator of this movement. In the ECG, money is no longer the goal of the economy, but rather a means that serves the new goal of the common good. Within this economic system, a common good matrix and a common good balance sheet are introduced, which are both aligned to the contribution for the common good.
From our perspective, the term common good is a very broad definition. What is the understanding of common good in society? As a quite broad term, difficulties may occur regarding a universal comprehension of common good and within this context, the question arises who is eligible to define official dimensions of the common good?
A major part of Christian Felber’s concept, as mentioned before, is the common good balance sheet for companies, communities and educational institutions. This tool uses a point-based system which evaluates the integration of the core values like human dignity, solidarity, ecological sustainability, and social justice & democratic co-determination into their daily practices. One goal is to make ecological, ethical and regional products less expensive and more attractive compared to unethical ones. The ECG movement is working in a democratic manner together with politicians, businesses, organizations and the public. But overall, companies are the main drivers in the economy for the common good and it is based in a market-economy system. We feel that the responsibility also belongs to the government to enforce this new orientation, thus companies can benefit from the regulations provided, so the incentives to get involved should drive this development.
From our view, the rating system of the common good matrix is insufficiently transparent concerning the common good claims, because the businesses individually estimate the degree of achievement only based on a vague guideline. Moreover, is the common good always quantifiable based on a scale? Is it possible to make measurable indicators comparable with each other? There is no official control institution with enforcement power which cross-validates the balance sheets of companies. Thus, subjective estimation and self-interest distort the outcome of the common good. Consequently, trust is not secured and establishes barriers for widespread application. As Christian Felber also explained, large multinational companies have not adopted the concept until now. How can it be ensured that there is no malpractice and what governmental regulations are planned to promote or sanction behaviour with regard to ethics?
Another aspect is that the sovereign citizens are at the core of the economy for the common good. The approach to sovereign democracy on all proposals is interesting, so that people decide in which direction the economy should go, based on the least resistance choice. However, do people really understand the whole complexity of an economy and are they educated enough to make such important decisions? How to ensure that all participants are taken along? Besides the positive aspects of democratic structures, they may also bring along problems regarding the efficiency of the system, limited responsiveness and responsibility of decision-makers, group pressure to vote for given choices or information overload for participants to fully understand a topic of interest. Consequently, we ask ourselves which approaches are planned to mitigate such potential problems caused by democratic structures?
To conclude, the economy for the common good is a quite new and promising approach, but still faces some difficulties for widespread acceptance. In the future, it remains to be seen whether an implementation takes place and society and business alike adhere to the principles of the ECG.
Written by: Anna Ladenstein and Sara Vaca
Based on the lecture "Economy for the Common Good" by Christian Felber during the AEMS summer school 2021.